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Appraisal Theory

Josef Nerb


The evening news on TV presents extensive coverage of an oil spill just off the Spanish coast. The audience sees the sinking of an oil tanker in a severe storm, learns that it has leaked tens of thousands of tons of heavy fuel oil, and watches pictures of birds fighting a hopeless fight for survival as their feathers are agglutinated. It will be mentioned that at the moment the cause of the accident is still obscure. To analyze the effects of this media coverage on the audience it will be crucial to know what kind of cognitive processes and emotional reactions are likely to occur (→  Emotions, Media Effects on ; Information Processing ). For example, the identification of a clearly responsible human agent is likely to elicit anger and anger-congruent cognitions, whereas the recognition that matters were out of anyone's control more often leads to predominantly sad reactions. “Appraisal theories of emotions” offer a more complete and systematic linkage between such cognitive evaluations of a situation and emotional reactions (see Scherer et al. 2001 , for an overview). More generally, these theories link cognitive evaluations about the significance of a situation for a person's goal or well-being – that is, the cognitive appraisals of a situation – to that person's emotional experiences (→  Cognition ; emotion ). For example, the appraisal that a situation is positively relevant ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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